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Traveling to China: Everything You Need to Know About Health Insurance

If you will be traveling or moving to China for work, for studying, or for some other more personal reason, there are certain aspects to the move that you should prepare for in advance to make the entire process of changing nations go as smooth and as fast as possible.

Among various other things, health insurance is one of the most important aspects to consider even before you actually get to the country.

To help out the western expatriate in China, here are some of the most important considerations regarding Chinese health insurance for expats.

You Need to Get Health Insurance as Soon as You Get There

The main Chinese cities have some of the best hospitals in the region, but they can be super expensive, especially once you consider the exchange rates and the fees.

Insure yourself and any other family members who might be traveling with you, but don’t let the marketing tactics of the insurance companies influence your decision.

Visit China Expat Health and take a look at their detailed comparison of every trusted China expat health insurance company, alongside the comparison of the facilities of their respective policies for expatriates, so that you can make an informed decision.

Given that back in 2016, the WHO estimated that roughly 700 people die in China and thousands get injured every single day due to road accidents alone, health insurance is not really optional in the country!

Be careful while driving on the roads in the main cities, but even if you are walking, trust your eyes and other senses more than the signals.

Then there is the infamous Chinese air pollution and undrinkable tap water to worry about as well, which further confirms the importance of having health insurance in China.

The Primary Types of Health Insurance in China

Understanding the basics of Chinese health insurance requires at least knowing the kind of insurances that are generally available to expats and to what extent they are actually useful.

University Health Insurance

University health insurance is good for students who visit are China for studying at any of their educational institutions, but in most situations, it should not be your only option because that insurance only extends itself to covering costs at the healthcare facilities present within the university campus.

They are dependable as long as your health problems involve minor injuries and illnesses, but anything serious and they do not have the equipment or the staff necessary to help you.

International Health Insurance

International hospitals and certain private healthcare units are covered by international insurance providers in China, but there are a few things to consider before you choose to go with them, which are as follows:

  • Cashless treatment is mostly available in Tier-1 Chinese cities such as Beijing or Shanghai
  • The healthcare facilities covered under the insurance are high quality, but scarce
  • The policies are quite expensive

General Chinese Health Insurance

General Chinese health insurance varies widely in coverage and facilities, depending on the price you pay for the policy and the insurer you choose. However, the problem with most of them is that the paperwork will almost always come exclusively in Chinese!

Additionally, you will have a hard time finding a cashless policy or insurer, as most of the companies offer to reimburse a portion of your costs at a later date, meaning that you will have to pay for the treatment initially.

Chinese Health Insurance for Expats

This is the ideal choice for most expatriates because it combines the affordable pricing of Chinese insurance with coverage at high-quality hospitals just like international insurance.

These generally have coverage across a much wider range of healthcare facilities than international insurance and depending on the policy and the insurer, even cashless facilities can be found.

In spite of being Chinese health insurance, since these are meant for expats in particular, all paperwork will come in English and the agents will be fluent English speakers as well. However, not every China expat health insurance provider or policy is the same, so do not forget to compare them at a place like the China Expat Health website first.

As far as documents are concerned, you will need your passport and proof of income/employment to take out health insurance, and additional documents might be necessary in some situations, so be sure to ask about it in advance.

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Lawrence Stall

Friday 6th of May 2022

pretty good article, been in China 8+ years and came across a dozen of foreigners begging for money on wechat for a surgery & emergency they dont have money for. always make sure you have adequate level of cover in the country. i personally been using these guys they are also in the country with several offices and can help you find the right plan for your needs